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Honor Reverend Joseph Lowery: Say and Do His 2009 Inaugural Prayer

I just heard that civil rights champion Reverend Joseph Lowery died yesterday at age 98.

We can celebrate this great man for many reasons. I celebrate him for the words he spoke from the United States Capitol in benediction of the Inauguration of this century’s greatest President, Barack Obama. His soulful prayer in subfreezing sunshine made me, an avowed atheist, say Amen! at the wheel of my own icy Jeep as I drove to town from the lake. Pastor Lowery’s prayer was that good—the best prayer I’ve ever heard, a model of, if you’ve got to pray in public, what a public prayer should say and do.

Reread the full transcript in my 2009 blog post. Rewatch that great prayer below, and think about the words that ring true, now and forever, for any nation striving to fulfill its duty to goodness in times of great trouble:

…For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

…We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream [Rev. Joseph Lowery, Inaugural benediction, Washington, DC, 2009.01.20].

Do justice. Love mercy. Amen.


  1. Donald Pay 2020-03-28 13:48

    Amen. The men and women of the civil rights era were my early heros. These were not just words for them, either. They lived those words.

  2. David Newquist 2020-03-28 14:39

    At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, he said,” …there are men and forces who still seek to restrict our vote and deny our full participation…We ain’t going back. We ain’t going back. We’ve come too far, marched too long, prayed too hard, wept too bitterly, bled too profusely and died too young to let anybody turn back the clock on our journey to justice.”

    Trump and his disciples have taken the country a long way back. May Lowery’s work and words inspire a renewal of his spirit.

  3. Debbo 2020-03-28 15:06

    The Rev. Lowrey is also a very deserved recipient of the Medal of Honor. I am so grateful Americans have heroes like him to remind us of what we can be again.

  4. Bob Newland 2020-03-28 18:11

    Yeah, well, there are people who can stop that foolishness. Like the great Medal of Freedom recipient, Rush Limbaugh.

  5. grudznick 2020-03-28 18:27

    Bob, in lieu of breakfast tomorrow some fellows invited us to an apostolic gathering in one guy’s back yard east of Hermosa. Not by where you lived. Meet me at the Flying J at 8 and I’ll have my driver take us to the gathering.

  6. Bob Newland 2020-03-28 19:10

    Sorry, I shall be praying to anyone who will listen that grudznick experiences a numbness in his fingers somewhere close to that in his gonads.

  7. grudznick 2020-03-28 21:04

    So to Bill, then?

  8. Eve Fisher 2020-03-29 11:37

    Back in 1985, I had the privilege of interviewing Reverend Joseph Lowery at SCLC headquarters in Atlanta. I was with a group of students from King College in Bristol, VA, and we were putting together an oral history of SCLC as our J-Term (January) project. He was a gracious man, with an amazing fund of stories, and a faith as deep as a river.

  9. Debbo 2020-03-29 14:19

    Must have been a wonderful experience, Eve.

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